Coxswain recordings, pt. 30

Previously: Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6 || Part 7 || Part 8 || Part 9 || Part 10 || Part 10b || Part 11 || Part 12 || Part 13 || Part 14 || Part 15 || Part 16 || Part 17 || Part 18 || Part 19 || Part 20 || Part 21 || Part 22 || Part 23 || Part 24 || Part 25 || Part 26 || Part 27 || Part 28 || Part 29

Wellesley College WV8+ Final 2016 NCAA Championships

I posted the recording from Wellesley’s heat at NCAAs back in December (you can check it out here) and similar to that recording, the audio’s a little muffled here. This is actually a good thing to keep in mind too now that the spring season is getting closer – if you’re not using a GoPro, make sure you play around with different spots to put your recorder so you can find one that protects it from the water while still being able to capture a clear sound.

If you want to watch the NCAA’s footage of the race and listen to their commentary, you can check it out here – skip ahead to 3:23:00ish (the race starts about a minute after that). Wellesley is in Lane 2 with the black boat and blue and white oars. I’d also recommend muting the NCAA video and starting the recording when the race starts, that way you can listen to Ale call the race as you watch it.

From a coxing standpoint, this piece accomplishes three of the things that make up a good recording – there’s no screaming off the line, she gives consistent updates on their pace and position, and at the end of the race you have a pretty good idea of where most of the crews finished just based on the updates she was giving throughout the piece. All of that is rooted in communication so if you’re a sophomore or junior who is trying to put together audio to sent to the JNT or college coaches, I would highly recommend you make your communication skills a central focus during practice in the weeks leading up to your first race. Ale demonstrates really well how to do this effectively by keeping the information concise (aka saying only what needs to be said) and using her tone rather than volume to convey her message.

Related: What makes a good coxswain recording

One of the most well executed parts of the race was when they’re crossing 1000m between 3:16 and 3:42ish. Through the first 1000m there’s this focus of just chipping away at the field stroke by stroke in order to establish their lead and then as they come across 1000m it’s like OK, we’ve got now, if anyone else wants it, they’re gonna have to take it from us because we are not giving it up.

I think the best part of the NCAA commentary is near the end where Williams starts to take the rate up but Wellesley is still at like, a 33 or something, and the announcer says they have “plenty of stroke rate left to go up and not much water left to defend”. That’s probably the best position you could be in coming into the last 250m of a race.

Other calls I liked:

“Catches with her, shoulders with her…”

“Our confidence in two … one … two, our confidence. MOVE through that 1000 … MOVE through that 1000. Seize it now … seize it now, blue. We command this. Sit up, we’re across. Sit up, now this is our 500 because we’ve trained … LET’S GO!

George Washington University 1F vs. Georgetown University 1F

Right off the start, I like the “draw through” call on the first stroke. That’s an easy one to whiff, especially if your blade’s not all the way buried or you pull out of the catch instead of push, so having that call as a reminder is a good way to make sure everyone stays horizontal through the drive.

Out of the high strokes they make their shift down to base and at 1:47 you hear him say that he wants to shift down one more beat to a 35. His execution here (between 1:47 and 2:00ish) is really smooth, mainly because there’s no sense of urgency in his tone that the shift has to happen right freakin’ now like you sometimes hear in other recordings. He draws it out over a couple of strokes which allows him time to make very clear, direct calls about what he wants and most importantly (especially when it comes to rate shifts), when he wants it to happen. This is something you should regularly be practicing when you’re doing pyramid pieces or anything else involving rate shifts, that way you can establish a good flow in initiating it and the crew can get accustomed to the calls you’ll make when the rate needs to change.

Little goals are obviously a big part of any race plan and he does a good job here of (indirectly) tying those to the crew’s overall technique. You’ve gotta be careful about making too many technical calls during a race and becoming hyperfocused on that but I think he does a good job of balancing those calls with follow-up calls that say where they are now on Georgetown after taking a few strokes to get the blades in, swing through a headwind, keep the outside shoulder up, etc.

The only thing I’d suggest not doing from this recording really isn’t that egregious but there’s definitely better – or at least clearer – ways to call it. Rather than saying “200m ’til the 500m mark” just say “750 to go” or if you’re making a move at 500, “15 strokes ’til we make our move”.

Other calls I liked:

“At the 500, we’re gonna walk away. We’re gonna sting at the 5…”

“Stay loose, stay long … stay loose, stay long…”, said on the drive, recovery.

Coxswain skills: Coxing erg tests

Previously: Steering, pt. 1 || Steering, pt. 2  || Boat feel || How to handle a negative coxswain eval || How to cox steady state workouts || How to cox short, high intensity workouts || Race steering || Steering a buoyed course || Evaluating practices || Evaluating races

If there’s one question that dominates my inbox between November and March (besides “what should I do during winter training”) it’s “how do I cox people on the erg?”. Steady state on the ergs is easy because you can mostly leave the rowers alone and just let them go at it but erg tests, like 2ks, usually require a bit more involvement on your part. With CRASH-Bs coming up, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

Related: 2k test strategy

The Golden rule of coxing rowers on the erg

Prior to the piece, ask if they want to be coxed. If they don’t, respect that and leave. them. alone. Don’t be that coxswain that gets all pissy and makes their decision all about you. It’s not and no one wants to waste their time doling out fake platitudes to make you feel better about yourself just because someone said “don’t cox me”.

Things to know

If you’re coxing people, you should know the following:

Their PR, previous time, and goal for this piece

What splits they’re trying to hold (either their overall average split or their split for each 500)

What calls resonate the best (some thrive on the heavily motivational stuff, others just need the occasional technical reminder)

When they want/need support (i.e. at 1200 because that’s where they tend to hit the wall, if you see their splits go above X, etc.)

We make this easy for our coxswains by having each guy send us their race plans that we then write on notecards and tape to their ergs (example below). By eliminating the need to memorize multiple individual race plans and requests, they can focus more on coxing and helping the guys hit their goals.

If they’re having a bad piece

It sucks watching your friends have a bad piece but rarely, if ever, does a half-hearted “you can do it!” (that you’re only saying because you don’t know what else to say) work here. If anything it just pisses them off so unless they specifically say to do that, focus more on giving them tangible, achievable goals to hit that will pull double-duty by serving as motivation to continue pushing to the end of the piece. Below are a couple examples but this is something you should directly ask them too – “if you start falling off pace, what can I do to help you get back on track?”.

If their splits are getting erratic, try to get them to hold a consistent pace for ten strokes. It doesn’t need to be their goal split, it just needs to be a split that they can commit to for an easily achievable amount of time. Focus on breathing and getting them re-dialed in to their race plan.

If they’re falling off pace and sitting at a 1:39 when they need to be at a 1:36 (and you know they’re capable of hitting it), get them to hit their splits for a couple strokes (twice max for 2-3 strokes each) before digging in and pushing the numbers back down. Super simple calls here like “there it is!” or “YEA that it’s, hit it again” just to get them to see that they can hit those numbers can be the kick of encouragement they need to recommit and get after it.

Similarly, you should know the rowers well enough to know when they’re having a bad piece because of something external (like they’ve got a cold, have a nagging injury, are dealing with academic stress, whatever…) or when they’re just feeling sorry for themselves and settling for whatever time they end up with. I can’t lay that out for you so just like our coxswains and I have done with our rowers, you’ve gotta do the same with yours – observe, observe, observe. Sometimes there will be a piece where it’s not about the time, it’s just about finishing it and other times, you just need to get behind them and say “stop feeling sorry for yourself, let’s go“. The better you know your athletes, the easier it’ll be for you to determine which one of those is appropriate.

Coxswain recordings, pt. 29

Previously: Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6 || Part 7 || Part 8 || Part 9 || Part 10 || Part 10b || Part 11 || Part 12 || Part 13 || Part 14 || Part 15 || Part 16 || Part 17 || Part 18 || Part 19 || Part 20 || Part 21 || Part 22 || Part 23 || Part 24 || Part 25 || Part 26 || Part 27 || Part 28

2015 Henley Royal Regatta Thames vs. Barge, Thames Challenge Cup Semi-Final

This coxswain is #goals AF.  Listen and learn because she puts on a clinic here.

This is a great race from the 2015 regatta and a solid example of a style of coxing that most of us in the US aren’t accustomed to. The biggest difference is in how we call the starts. Our style is very regimented most of the time but this style is a little looser and focuses more on the technical side (“nice and loose off the back end”, “let’s start pushing that finish”, etc.) rather than calling out 1/2, 1/2, 3/4, full, “complete, complete, lengthen, full” or whatever your traditional starting sequence is.

I’ve called starts like this and I do like it but it requires a lot of focus from the crew because they don’t have you in their ear calling the starting five, power 20, lengthen 5, etc. The coach I did it with always referred to it as a more “mature” way of racing because it forces everyone, coxswain included, to be that much more tuned in to the race plan and what’s happening on each stroke, even if/when it’s not directly being said out loud.

Also, note how at 1:40 she says “here comes the wind”? You can see the texture of the water is different in front of the boat in the subsequent few seconds after she makes that call (in comparison to the calmer water in front of them as they came off the line). If you’re new to coxing or are trying to get a grip on how to alert your crew of where the wind is, this gives you a good visual of what the water will look like as you encounter, in this instance, a headwind. Remember, if it’s blowing towards you, it’s a headwind, if it’s blowing with you it’s a tailwind, and if it’s hitting you at an angle it’s a crosswind.

Related: One of my coaches was a coxswain and I got switched out the last third of practice to be in the launch with her. OMG BEST TIME EVER. Every time I had a question she’d answer it so well! More coxes should become coaches! One thing she was talking about was watching the wind patterns – like the dark patches in the water to let the crew know. I understand the concept, but I’m not really understanding why. Like, I tell them that a wind/wake is coming to prepare them?

The 15 seconds between 2:25 and 2:40 show exactly how you should communicate with your crew during a race, particularly one where you’re down. Her tone is level, she’s calm, she makes calls that keep the crew focused, and she doesn’t give them any reason to worry when she says where they are relative to Barge. She makes the call for “our rhythm”, which is always a great go-to call, and follows it up with calls that emphasize what she wants, not just in their direct meaning but also in how she says and annunciates them. She ends it by saying “they’re just sitting there … let’s start trucking through … we knew we’d be down off the start”, which is a good way of saying we knew this was going to happen, it’s OK but now it’s time to buckle in and get moving. There’s no sense of concern or anything there, which can admittedly be tough to master as a younger coxswain but it’s a skill that can really elevate you from just being mediocre to being good.

That move between 2:50 and 4:10ish is flawless. THAT’S how you make up 2/3 of a length between you and another crew. You can bet too that when she said “half a meter off their stern and they have no idea what the hell happened here”, that’s exactly what they were thinking.

When she slaps the side of the boat as she calls “now” at 5:38, you can see and almost feel the energy in the boat pick up. I’ve seen lots of coxswains do this and have done it myself too but be careful if you do – slamming your wrist into the gunnel hurts like a bitch.

One of the (many) things she does well is giving them super specific position updates – i.e. “we’re a meter and a half off their cox”, “we’re a meter off their bow ball … we’re a foot off their bow ball … bow ballll!”, etc. Don’t underestimate how motivating this is to the crew, especially if you can count it down like she does as they’re coming up on bow to stern.

Crossing the line, “we’re gonna act like this means god damn nothing, they should never have come over here” … like, damn, could you make a more savage call at the end of a race? I aspire to have that much ice in my veins.

She makes a great point though, celebrating wins is fine and normal and whatever but you should have some decorum when doing it too. My coaches always told us to save it for the final. Heats and semis were the battles but the final was the war and you don’t want to look like a dick by shouting, slumping over, etc. just because you won something as inconsequential as a qualifier, no matter how good of a race it was.

Other calls I liked:

“Let’s cruise now, tap it along…”

“In two … next stroke … now…” I like how she calls this. It just sounds crisper than saying “in two, one … two…”.

“You’ve got momentum Thames, we’ve got to keep moving…”

“Gimme five strokes holding the back end through…” Super basic call but she said it so succinctly and didn’t waste any time getting it out – one breath to make a call that that helped them take a seat over those five strokes.

“Hang and send…”

“Keep squeezing me away…”

“Whole crew, sit up now…” Another basic call but I like how assertive she is in calling it and how she gives them direction on when to do it. Little, little details like this add up.

Australia Men’s 8+ training row

This is a long recording (22 minutes) and there’s not much specific that I want to point out, rather I think this is just another good example of how to execute a long row – occasional technical comments but largely letting the rowers feel out the piece and process the changes that need to be made while giving the coach(es) plenty of opportunities to jump in if they have feedback to offer.

This is something you can/should discuss with the crew and your coaches too. I’ve been in boats that hated this much silence between calls and I’ve been in others where this amount of coxing was just right. Similarly, some coaches are content to let you take control and do the majority of the talking/coaching, others want to use this time to provide as much feedback as possible. Both can be annoying for the coxswain because long rows like this require a bit of forethought so you’re not just winging it with your calls but at the same time, it’s really annoying when you get talked over or interrupted every time you go to say something.

Conversations like this will obviously do a lot for making practice more effective but my end game with having them was to just save myself as much hassle and frustration as possible. There’s nothing selfish about that so don’t think you’ll look bad if you bring this up, particularly if dealing with overly talkative coaches on the water is a problem you’ve encountered in the past.

Team USA 2012 M8+ 10 at base pace

This is a quick and simple video that shows the eight going through some strokes at base pace. I don’t think this is Zach Vlahos coxing them so if anyone does know who it is, let me know. (Update: Asked Zach, it’s Ned DelGuercio.)

One thing he does that everyone should do at the end of the piece is say “clean paddle”. Just because you took a few hard strokes doesn’t mean you can row like shit now just because you’re not at pressure. That goes for coming off of longer pieces too. A small dropoff in technique is fine but you should still be at like, 90% when it comes to how proficient your strokes look. Anything less is just lazy.

Also, check out that docking. Drops pairs out on the approach, tells them to watch their oars, when to lean, to watch out for the corner … seriously, if you guys do those four things as effortlessly as he did them, you’re docking will improve tenfold in one practice. None of that is hard either so don’t equate “effortlessly” with the fact that he’s a national team coxswain. If you have functioning eyes and common sense it’ll be just as easy for you as it was for him.

Other calls I liked:

“Stabilize here…” I use this one a lot as a full-stroke call (“stabilize” at the catch, “here” at the finish”) if/when the boat’s off set.

You can see all the recordings I’ve shared by checking out the “Coxswain Recordings” page listed on the front page of the blog.

Coxswain recordings, pt. 28

Previously: Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6 || Part 7 || Part 8 || Part 9 || Part 10 || Part 10b || Part 11 || Part 12 || Part 13 || Part 14 || Part 15 || Part 16 || Part 17 || Part 18 || Part 19 || Part 20 || Part 21 || Part 22 || Part 23 || Part 24 || Part 25 || Part 26 || Part 27

Over the next few weeks I’m going to start cleaning up the recordings posts, getting rid of ones that have been deleted, and making the posts more reader-friendly. Part of that will entail breaking up some of the longer posts with 5-6 recordings in them (tbh what was I thinking putting that many recordings in one post) and shortening them to around three recordings each (some might have two if they’re really long, others might have four if they’re really short). To avoid spamming you with email notifications whenever these “new” posts go up, there might be periods of time where the site will be inaccessible. If you see that, don’t worry – the blog’s not going anywhere, I’m just working to make it better.

UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON 3V PRACTICE

First thing you should take note of in this video is how good both the coxing and rowing is … and this is their 3V. Don’t take the attitude of “oh well it’s Washington, of course their 3V is good”. If you want to cox at most Division 1 programs – men or women – you’ve gotta be about this good, give or take, just to get into a lower boat. The youngest or “leftover” coxswain isn’t necessarily the default coxswain for these crews anymore, especially when you’re on a big team.

On your current team there might be competition for a single boat whereas for most teams competing in the grand and petite finals at IRAs or NCAAs, there will be competition for all the boats because there are more coxswains than there are crews. Whatever your “A-game” is now, this audio should be a wake up call that that ceases to be good enough the moment you join a collegiate team. I’m not saying that to freak you out either or make you question your ability to cox in college, I’m just putting it out there because it’s an expectation you need to be aware of and prepared for.

Back to the audio. One of the things I really like is how spaced out her words are. She’s not slowing her speech down or drawing anything out (on the contrary, she’s talking at a pretty normal pace and tone for the majority of the piece) but there’s a crispness and to each of the words that makes understanding her effortless.

I also liked the transition between the high strokes and the stride – the “press long” and “long stretch” calls were a good addition there as they brought the rate down. I say “breathe” a lot too because it’s an easy default call but it’s also easy to get repetitive with so the more alternatives you can come up with (in the vein of “press long and “long stretch“), the more effective you’ll be at initiating or maintaining that stride.

WELLESLEY COLLEGE WV8+ HEAT 2016 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS

I coached with Ale this summer and she sent me several of her recordings from her time at Wellesley College where she coxed the 1V to an NCAA title this year. The audio’s a little muffled (I think she said it was in her bag or uni) so it might be a little hard to understand her – just turn the volume up and listen close.

This recording is from their heat and one of the things that immediately stood out was how calm her tone is while still being intense and assertive as fuck throughout the entire race. You can hear that at 1:08 where she says “one seat Amelia, NOW“. Preceding that she does an excellent job of telling them where they’re at (“35, 250 in, sitting on Bates’ 8-man”) and what they’re going to do (“we’re going to stride”) and part of what makes that “NOW” call so effective is how effectively she changes her tone between the two sets of calls. She increases her volume not by yelling but by inflecting the level of intensity she wants to see in the rowers. There’s a huge difference and if you can nail that skill, your worth as a coxswain is gonna go up a lot.

Related: The language of the first 500

Further on in the piece at 4:07, they’re coming off a counter-move and she says “totally neutralized their move, in two let’s swing it back…” to re-establish their pace and rhythm. Calls like this after a move are smart because it’s easy to get a little frantic when you’re countering someone’s move or making one of your own and coming into the last 500m of the race you want to make sure you’re moving as effectively as possible so there’s no unnecessary energy being expended.

Other calls I liked:

“Hook it, move it…”

“We go with our winning rhythm, taking 6-seat of Bates in two…”

“We trust our rhythm, we trust our speed…”

“Sit up across the thousand…”

“One press together, catches in sharper…”

GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY MV8+ 2015 PRINCETON CHASE

If you’ve never been to the Princeton Chase, the 30-60 seconds of “light … light … light … pause … continuous, light … etc.” is pretty standard because there are so many boats corralled together in a U-shape along the end of the lake.

One of the things Connor consistently does well is incorporating individual rowers into his calls. You’ll hear him at 2:06 say “calm around the back, right Hugo?”, at 6:06 “Ben, you’re fuckin’ killin’ it…”, at 9:53 “Joey, I like the change man, good shit…”, etc. and that kind of engagement helps get the most out of each of those guys. If you’re just reciting your race plan during a race and only paying attention to stuff outside your gunnels, you’re leaving a lot of free speed on the table.

Related: (Connor swears a lot – I think it’s a non-issue but it is something to be mindful of, especially if you’re a junior coxswain.) I’m trying out for New Trier Novice Rowing in a couple days (go NT! I was super excited to see New Trier in the 8+ Midwest Championships recording!) and wanted to know what the real rules are on swearing in a race. I heard that you can get DQ’d but it is super rare and most coxswains swear anyway. What are your thoughts? 

Once they’ve got everything established, at 3:06 he starts to bring a bit more personality and energy into the piece and makes a call for five to bend the oars and swing back. As I’ve talked about before, primarily in the post linked below, this is how you can/should call a burst in order to get the most out of it. You can hear the energy in his voice before and he engages them by saying “let’s fuckin’ go ham today boys”, which is just way more effective than saying “power 10!” or simply “5 to bend the oars”.

Related: Race skills: All about Power 10s

One thing that I consistently get questions about from coxswains is how to avoid being repetitive and sometimes it’s hard to do, as you can hear at 7:24 when he says “guys, I’m gonna sound like a broken record but we’ve gotta get the blades in”. I love that and don’t see any problem with making a call like that. There’s good repetitiveness and bad repetitiveness and this is a perfect example of how to execute a string of calls in a “good repetitive” way. A big part of why this works is there’s no sense of pleading or franticness in his voice. He says what he sees, just with a more direct sense of urgency, and follows it up with five to sharpen the bladework. He ends it by telling them the changes they made worked and now it’s time to maintain it and move.

Other calls I liked:

“We’re gonna stride it out one beat with a big boom, ready, on … this one GO … BOOM, yea … BOOM, yea…”

“One leg drive, one swing…”

“Tall at both ends…”

“Remember the fundamentals…”

“It’s all us … it’s all us .. it’s gotta be all us…

You can see all the recordings I’ve shared by checking out the “Coxswain Recordings” page listed on the front page of the blog.

Coxswain skills: Evaluating races

Previously: Steering, pt. 1 || Steering, pt. 2  || Boat feel || How to handle a negative coxswain eval || How to cox steady state workouts || How to cox short, high intensity workouts || Race steering || Steering a buoyed course || Evaluating practices

Following up on September’s post on evaluating practices, today’s post is gonna talk about evaluating your race performance. Given that the biggest race of the fall season for most of us is now over and the hangover (either from racing or Ned Devine’s) has worn off, today seems like a good day to reflect back on how we did.

Similarly to when you’re looking back on practice, there’s a lot of different variables you can look at to determine if your performance was up to par (and no, winning is not one of them – you can win and cox like shit just like you can lose and still cox a good race). There’s some carryover between the two but below are the ones I fall back on the most when talking with our coxswains, regardless of whether we’re talking about sprint or head races.

Did you execute the race plan effectively and if you had to deviate from it, did you do so in a way that was easily understood by the crew?

I’ve extolled the virtues of race plans enough times that you should know by now that there’s no excuse for not having one. Plan A, Plan B, Plan C … gotta have ’em all because you never know when you’re gonna need to make the switch because the race is developing differently than you’d originally planned. The better acquainted you and your crew are with the plan before launching for your race, the smoother the transition will be if you need to make that jump. Having to do this during a race is a good test of your composure, your ability to stay focused, and your awareness of how the race is developing around you and how you need to adapt to it.

Did you work towards and/or achieve your personal goals for that day?

Usually with our coxswains this involves something related to race management, steering, and/or communication with the crew. This is a big one for us because we’re always talking about what we did well during this race that we want to carry over to next week (and continue to improve on, implement more frequently, etc.), as well as what we didn’t do well that we need to work on throughout the week so that it’s done better during the next race. We discuss their goals before the race, immediately after, and then more in depth when we go over the video and having that conversation consistently throughout the week is one of the things that helps keep them on track.

Did you make technical corrections that contributed to an increase in boat speed?

This is a question that carries over from the previous post where I talked in more detail about how to determine if your technical calls are effective. Obviously during a race it’s too late to be coaching a rower or crew’s technique but you can/should still make simple, targeted calls that address issues if/when they pop up (i.e. “shape the finishes” if the blades aren’t coming out cleanly, particularly in rough water like we had all weekend). This is crucial during a race because if your technique is off just enough to slow you down 0.001 seconds per stroke, that’s 2 seconds over the course of 2000 meters, which at this level (collegiate men) can equate to nearly a boat length.

These post-race reflections are easily done without audio or GoPro but they’re so much more effective if you’ve got a recording on hand that you can go through, analyze, and get feedback on. GoPro is even better but the caveat, for you at least, is that your performance and execution skills will get scrutinized and critiqued a lot more because you can see your course, the bladework, etc. and how well you’re doing relative to each of those things.

The Wisco race from this past spring is good example of this. If we’d just had the audio I think we’d all agree that it was a solid performance by our coxswain but because we had the GoPro video too, there were a lot of things that stood out where if he’d executed XYZ better, attacked certain areas of the course with a little more fire, etc. that race could/would have been closer. And yea, I agree that it’s absolutely nitpicky as fuck but that’s also the nature of the game.

Related: MIT Men’s Rowing V8+ vs. Wisconsin (Spring 2016)

The great thing about going over that video with our coxswain (who was a freshman at the time) was that all the stuff I wanted to point out and say “we need to do this better”, he said first. I remember leaving that meeting and being so impressed because all I really had to do was help refine whatever plan he’d come up with to work on each of the areas where he felt he needed to improve. The one or two things that I pointed out that he hadn’t already mentioned, we discussed so that it made sense to him and then he  followed up with “OK, how would you do it?” or “What should I do/say next time?”. That’s a HUGE sign of maturity in a coxswain and ultimately plays a big part in how effective these post-race (or post-practice) self-evaluations are.

HOCR: Setting up for Weeks

Previously: Getting to the starting line || Steering through the bridges || Landmarks along the course || Steering around the turns || Race plans || My general race plan || Yaz Farooq’s coxswain clinic || Race plan “hacks” || The course in meters || Weeks, Lowell House, and “the turning tree”

Two years ago Pete Cipollone was on the Rowing Illustrated podcast talking about how to take the Weeks turn. I’ve talked about Weeks before in a previous post but if you’re looking for some last minute tips, here’s a few from the guy who’s won HOCR seven times and whose course record still stands (13:58.9, set in 1997 if you’re curious).

Related: Pete Cipollone’s 1997 HOCR Recording

Setting yourself for the turn is easier than you think, provided you give yourself plenty of room to execute it and position yourself in the middle of the course coming down the Powerhouse stretch. Despite what you’ve probably heard from your coach about staying tight to the buoys, this is one spot (of many, tbh) where you don’t want or need to do that. If you’re confident in your rudder system and the strength of your bow and 3-seat then you can hug them a little tighter but the “ideal” position is about a full boat length off the buoys.

Related: Taking the Weeks turn with a new/better fin on the Empacher

There are two ways to know if you’ve nailed the turn – the first is if you’re done steering before you hit the bridge. If you’re going through the bridge at an angle and you’re pretty much completely off the rudder already, you nailed it. The other visual cue is if your port side’s blades miss the abutment by a foot or less. I’ve talked about this before but for me personally, I know that when I have the momentary feeling of “oh shit I’m gonna hit the bridge”, that’s how I know we’re right where we need to be.

Related: Weeks, Lowell House, and “the turning tree”

The last part of managing the turn is thinking ahead to Anderson, which you should be doing before you even enter Weeks. Coming out of the turn, provided you started it early enough and are done steering before you go through the bridge, you want to be pointed straight ahead at the outside abutment of Anderson Bridge (the one between the Boston arch that contains the traveling lane and the center racing arch).

Related: Steering through the bridges

A lot of coxswains, particularly those who are racing at HOCR for the first time, have a tendency to wait too long to start their turns which then throws them super wide coming through Weeks, which then means they’ve gotta do an S-curve to get back into position to be lined up for Anderson. You can save yourself a lot of stress and steering by thinking a bridge or two ahead so that you’ve got plenty of time to get set up and make adjustments to your course if necessary if there’s other crews in your way.

Video of the Week: That time a boat sank at HOCR

Legend has it that the coxswain of this eight (from a university in China) got held up at customs and wasn’t allowed into the United States. None of the rowers spoke English which meant not only did they have to find a coxswain, they had to find one that spoke Mandarin. Luckily they found someone at MIT who spoke Mandarin and could cox but they later found out (too late, of course) that she and the rowers spoke different dialects of Mandarin which meant they could barely understand each other. This proved particularly problematic when they collided with another boat and eventually sank two miles later. It also produced what is probably one of the greatest photos of a coxswain ever. Good luck this weekend!